Pensioners will not have it so good under the Conservatives

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman

How’s this for retirement living? Large, light-filled apartments overlooking a park, supper ordered through 24-hour room service, a chauffeur-driven car to take you to the shops, an attendant in the lobby to help you with any shopping bags you might have, your medication served on a silver platter and a nurse on hand, around the clock.

Throw in a cinema, craft, room, swimming pool and gym with another floor devoted to long-term nursing and palliative care.

Prime Minister Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May

I fell upon this information in the business section of a national newspaper this week. A slew of luxurious urban residences for the over 65s are being snapped up in the UK, it said. Battersea Place is one of them where retirement is very much lived in luxury and if you have a handy £3m to splash out, plus the monthly service charges (expect them to be in the thousands), then this is the place for you.

With a fortune like that, why would you leave your money to ungrateful children who are quite likely to squander it on the luxurious living they would like for themselves, while you plead with them to visit you in your lonely existence occasionally?

We are not particularly well endowed with high- end retirement homes in Northern Ireland. In fact, across the UK, just 0.7pc of over-65s live in a retirement home with care facilities. The article compares this to 6.1pc in the US and 5.4pc in Australia. Downsizing into even a moderately luxurious retirement home in the UK is expensive. Add in the care element and it’s not hard to see why these are only for the rich. Some very rich elderly people, in fact, don’t even bother looking for the retirement home. They simply rent an apartment in a posh hotel in London – Sir Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie Jerome and the late Duchess of Argyll lived in luxurious retirements in the city’s top hotels. Family trusts would have paid for the downsizing dowagers. The rest of us may like the idea of the all-singing, all-dancing retirement home but unless the trust was set up years before, it’s not going to be affordable.

And Theresa May’s plans for the elderly, should she win the election, are scary beyond belief.

My generation – the baby boomers – are fortunate to have homes on which the mortgages are long since paid off. We take a lot of stick for this from the younger generation who believe they can never achieve this on current salaries and house prices. Yet some older people are having to consider returning to work to make retirement possible. Did we ever think it would come to this?

Alas, a life of relative luxury in an upmarket retirement home is still very much in the gift of the rich who won’t be at all bothered by the Tory manifesto published this week. Theresa May has been listening to the younger generation which believes pensioners are having it too good, what with pensions protected by the triple lock, the winter fuel allowance and free travel. Her party, if it wins the election, will only offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less. The value of a home will now be included in the means test for care in their own home, meaning more people will be liable to contribute to the cost of being looked after. The triple lock for the state pension will be reduced to double lock.

Andrew Dilnot, former director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, says this means there is nothing the elderly can do to protect themselves against care costs. I suspect the grey vote will now go to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who promises to look after the elderly and just about everyone else, though he doesn’t tell us how he will do it.

Worrying times ahead, I suspect.